Saturday, April 07, 2018

Café Society

Come on down to the Mermaid Café
And I will buy you a bottle of wine
And we'll laugh and toast to nothing and
Smash our empty glasses down
Let's have a round for these freaks and these soldiers
A round for these friends of mine
Let's have another round for the bright red devil, who
Keeps me in this tourist town. - Joni Mitchell "Carey"

Bluestone Lane UES Manhattan
To quote Big Bird, "One of these things is not like the others".

Little Collins, Brunswick, St Kilda, Fort Green, Flinders Lane, Northern Territory.

But they all have something in common - they are all Australian cafés, and all but one is in New York City.

Australian cafés are big in New York, especially in Brooklyn, though the trend trendiness is spreading.

Not all go by street or suburb names. There's Banter, Laughing Man,  Two Hands, Tony's Estate and Saltwater Coffee.

Fort Green of course is the odd man out. It's in Northcote - a suburb of Melbourne that has been in the process of being gentrified for the last twenty plus years.

A friend of mine tells me that it is nothing like the Brooklyn neighborhood after which it is named. Unlike the darkly-lit Vienna style hipster  hangouts,  Green Point Northcote is for healthy millenials Customers sit on stools at high tables, drinking smoothies surrounded by light and potted palms. So Northcote. So getting-it-wrong.

But I shouldn't be mean - I lived in Northcote for many years. At the even more trying-to-be-trendy Westgath end. No doubt this sub-suburb is now called WeGa after the New York City naming convention that became a model for the names of emerging and re-purposed neighborhoods in New York,  such as TriBeCa for "Triangle Below Canal Street", DUMBO ("Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass"), NoHo ("North of Houston Street"), NoLIta ("North of Little Italy").

Perk on Second - Great Coffee
I remember my parents - when they weren't throwing things at each other and burying each others' vinyls (or the fifties equivalent of) in the backyard out of spite, going to a coffee shop in Melbourne's CBD - Pelllegrinis. Melbourne has always been one step ahead of New York in coffee drinking.

Last week I went to the Australian-owned  Bluestone Lane on the Upper East Side. It is beautifully situated in the nave of an old church. The Church of Eternal Rest. My kind of place.

The food was excellent and lived up to the high standards of Australian cuisine. I had maple roasted heirloom carrots, spinach, lentils, pickled beets, feta, poached egg and avocado with turmeric ginger yogurt dressing.

But the coffee has been Americanized. It looks like real Aussie coffee but tastes like it is watered down. American as. Pod coffee.

Apart from the coffee and the compulsory tipping - the place is "cashless" and you pay on an iPad where the lowest tip is 14%, the place really is Australian.

The staff all spoke Australian when I was there and there was just that touch of Australian ageism.  Case in point -

When I went there it was busy and so there was a line (queue),  and you had to have the greeter person put your name down and wait till you were called. I noticed that I had not been asked my name and  when she walked past ten minutes later I saw a list of names with no "Kate" among them.

"How will you know when it is my turn?" I asked.  "Oh we will, she said. Don't worry my dear." Am I paranoid, or had she noted me down in her head as "old person".

Probably.





Sunday, March 25, 2018

Listen to the Kids

And you of tender years
Can't know the fears
That your elders grew by
And so please help
Them with your youth
They seek the truth
Before they can die. - "Teach Your Children", Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 1970
 
Listen to the Kids

I took the photo "Listen to the Kids" because it seemed so apt -  with its verbiage, "YOU CORRUPT OLD ASSHOLES". And with some kids on the left and Central Park as a backdrop, it is so March for Our Lives and so New York.

The "kids" have inspired the generations that came before them, the jaded baby-boomers especially. But also the alphabet generations who comprise their parents.  Many of us now have hope for the future for the first time in years.

I couldn't march for health reasons. But I was determined to show up to make a stand. So I hung out on Central Park West near 82nd Street  while  single block by single block the cops released yet another wave of demonstrators into the throng. And I took photos.

Here are some of my favorites.

Like the children in most of the photos I took of kids, this child protester gave a big smile and was proud of her banner.


I like this photo of millenials taking a break from the March. They were handing out stickers, and seeing I am a hundred years old and must have looked exhausted, they asked me if I needed any help. One of them offered to, and took, a photo of me with the march as background. I am not posting it anywhere however as I really do look several decades older than I am.

This gutsy teenager was dressed to kill. Loved her summery dress and detachable winter sleeves. And of course her "FCK NRA" with the sight-in  target.

No truer words ...


Humorous banners were out in force. As were the chants. "Little hands, little feet". And the macabre "America Land of the Dead",  as well as the more serious "This is what democracy looks like", and "NRA! NRA! How many kids did you kill today?"


This multi-tasking boomer caught my eye. He wore his heart on his lapel. The headline of the newspaper he was reading was about our mayor Bill de Blasio's who is being accused of corruption - "Straw man spills beans on Blaz".

The Smiling Music Lover

Vote AND March for Our Lives

This protester told me that his sign was "a sign you have when you aren't having a sign",  and that he'd never made a sign before in his entire life. His protest button reads "GRAB 'EM BY THE MIDTERMS" and shows the Capitol building wearing a pink pussy hat.

Waiting their turn. Police released people into the march block by block, starting at 86th Street.

Like most pre-teen, this little girl was accompanied by her mother. Like the other little kids she was happy to smile for the camera.

Great colors! "We ARE STUDENTS. WE ARE CHANGE".

Although some children had had help with their signs, many had colored in the lettering or added pictures or designs to them.

Lining u at the 82nd Street barricades, waiting to be let through. Crowd control. The police and organizers did an excellent job.

No words

The pensive boy

This little one made her own poster. "I March for MY To Life" with a drawing of a gunman firing at a "skool, with a "no" line through it". Ten out of ten!

A minimalist millennial. Man, wtf all lower case, on a piece of letter-size printer paper.

Standing with #EmmaGonzalez. As we all should.


I took about a hundred photos. A few of my favorites are on Instagram @kate_juliff

"Teach Your Children" is on YouTube HERE.












Monday, March 19, 2018

The Invalid - Three Poems

This blog post is dedicated to Laurel and Jai Ap - two millennials 
who, along with the Parkland students,
give me hope for the generation
who will hopefully have a world left to manage.

A Thousand Autumn Leaves
 
I haven't been my normal blogger self lately, having spent a couple of months in hospital. But I managed to escape, and amongst ghastly things like blood transfusions, morphine, and getting some of my internal organs rearranged, I am still in the land of the living. Just.

While there I wrote a few poems.

Here are three of them.

Life on Land - An Evolution

Ghost-like they creep
Ascending through the stages
Of walker, shuffle-stick and cane
Till complete independence is achieved.
Here in the half-life-hell of the intensive ward
where failure is success and
where "sans everything”
is the name of the game.

A Fragile Autumn Leaf from China

Peaceful and serene she lies there.
A fragile autumn leaf
past its prime.
In her hospital bed.

She hails from a village
near Beijing where she was born
the year that Tolstoy died, 1910.
She speaks only her local dialect.

On evenings she offers  food
to anyone who passes
and speaks to me gently
as if to wish me well.

Tonight I saw her sleeping.
dreaming, clasping a tissue
as if it were a fan
and she was shyly greeting
her lover in nineteen twenty six.

Social Integration
(Before you can leave rehabilitation, you have to show you can walk on the sidewalks of Manhattan. It is called "Social Integration"!)

My first day under the sky
tentatively treading
on the uneven streets of New York.
They make me use a cane.
They set milestones every few meters.
I used to walk a mile
in these shoes.
Such is the winter of my discontent.

-----------------------------------------
That's all folks!




Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Do You Feel? (Slam)

Do you come from a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder
You better run, you better take cover - "Down Under" Men at Work 1981

They "out" them now,
Even if they so much as touch a thigh
Briefly, softly, surreptitiously.
What were they thinking?

Those men who now give us no second glance.
At board-room meetings they ignored us.
Spoke over us as they shuffled their papers
Leisurely, making us wait for their self-important words.
A woman’s place was in the bed.

Devoured, we were undressed by elderly oyster eyes
By men who thought they were god’s gift
They could not get enough of us
Our bodies that is, for they had no interest
In our souls.

On trains, in the streets, at business meetings
In the homes of our boyfriends’ fathers
Droit de seigneur reinterpreted
No part of us, no place was safe.

Now we who were once game to be chased, devoured
Undressed obscenely by primeval eyes
Are unseen, meat well-past its prime.
As the poet sang
We are invisible now, with no secrets to conceal

My daughter wrote that on seeing her
Grown men shudder, warriors huddle together and
She once saw a man rip out his own eyes rather than catch a glimpse of her
Once groped, fondled no matter how young
Yes young, not old.

And now the tide has turned
And these men can do nothing
No touching now.
Nothing, nothing is appropriate

They lose their jobs
With no questions asked
From prime-time to no-time
Their fame obliterated from public memory.
Their wives leave them; their books are burned.

It is ‘revenge’, and they deserve it
A friend espoused.
They are suffering now
For all those years they disrespected us.

Maybe, but it is unjust, because as in war
It is young men
The innocent, who will bear the brunt
Who will suffer the punishment
For the sins of old men.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

When We Were Polaroids, and Beyond

I'm livin' in the 70's
I feel like I lost my keys
Got the right day but I got the wrong week
And I get paid for just bein' a freak - Skyhooks, "Living in the Seventies" circa 1975

Kissing Cousins, Polaroid 1975
We all have them - well, when I say "we" I mean us baby boomers, and maybe our adult children. Photos taken with Polaroid cameras. Of blond long-haired offspring - grainy photos of a time of lost innocence.

Pure nostalgia, now commercialized in made-for-Netflix series and its ilk - which feature opening scenes of old snaps and ancient videos, such as in "Transparent" and "One Mississippi".

The grainy colors, the unreal awkward reds - faded in time like the memories they evoke. More innocent than the black and white photos taken with SLR cameras, Polaroid's were for the working-class chroniclers.

The closest we could get to instant gratification. I remember my mother, all excitement, taking  photos of her grandkids and waiting the three minutes for her Polaroid to produce the photo.. Now of course it is instant, and we have so many photos of our children, friends, places and grandchildren that they sit on hard drives and smart phone. Memories - too many to even browse.

Such is our time. Everything flashes by. Images forgettable before they are fully absorbed.

There was a time before Polaroids of course. My father was an amateur photographer. He had quite a business going for a while, taking wedding photos. He'd take photos of the bride and groom and guests, and run off to develop them, to return them while the bridal party was still celebrating.Unfortunately he was a drinker, and invariably had six too many while developing the photos, only to return round midnight when the wedding guests had long since departed...

Fortunately however, he took some pre-Polaroid photos of me, and while sorting out my old photos recently, I came across the series below. I post it here because it completely and perfectly summarizes my life. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

This me, and is MY non-polaroid story.

Scroll down.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Standing on One Foot with Closed Eyes

Grace: [after outburst in grocery store when ignored by cashier] Okay, that lacked poise. And I'm sorry, but I refuse to be irrelevant.
Frankie: [Lighting cigarette] . It's okay. I learned something. We've got a super power.
Grace: [Referring to cigarettes] You stole those?
Frankie:
You can't see me, you can't stop me. from "Grace and Frankie" 2015

"Look, how cool my brother looks for family photos!! Oh, when we lived for the moment!" . Cousin M, 2017
St Kilda Beach - "When We Were Very Young"
I recently spent nearly two weeks in hospital. About the same length of time as when I gave birth to my children. Back in the day, as they say.

Yes, "back in the day" when we arrived at hospital with suitcases pre-packed with feminine nighties and clothes for the baby, oh so long ago, when we didn't know if it was to be a boy or a girl.

Back in the day - when to "rage" meant wild partying with flowing alcohol and serial sex. Now I associate the word "rage" with of how I feel about Donald Trump. Or perhaps even more appropriately with Dylan Thomas's "rage against the dying of the light".

Fast forward to 2017, New York. Admitted to hospital with only my handbag - an unplanned stay via ER. But planned or unplanned, all patients men and women wore identical attire. Hospital gowns. A uniform.

Gone were out identities. We had no props. Nothing to define us as individuals. This was true egalitarianism. The only thing defining us was our ages. And being of a certain age, this had its disadvantages.

No one "likes" being in hospitals, but being a bit of a control-freak, and having had a terrible experience in an Australian hospital "back in the day", I guess I have hospital-phobia.

"Do you know where you are?" a young intern asked me. The first of what I grew to understand was a set of standard questions given to anxious old people. I did well! "What year are we in?" Got that right too. "Month?" Correct! "Day off the month?". Good heavens. Where was my iPhone? "Who is the President?" "A nasty orange man with bad hair," I answered. FAIL! The intern whipped out his notebook and scribbled something. Obviously a man with no sense of humor. I felt sorry for his wife.

Another medic arrived shortly after. He told me I seemed anxious. I agreed. He asked why. The notebook was out. The pen ready.

"Well", I answered, "I have something wrong with my lungs and can barely breath. I have been told that I have pulmonary embolisms. Plural. And there is what appears from the CAT scan, a hole in my gall bladder. As well I have stomach ulcer. My family is over 12,000 miles away in Australia, and my daughter is about to have an operation. My employment is about to be terminated. As well, I am a normally anxious person."

"You seem to talk a lot" he said "scribbling in his notebook. "About disparate things." "I won't talk then," I sulked. More scribbling. My anxiety level was rising

At YoYo Nails, Second Avenue
The woman in the next bed reminded me of Shelly Pfefferman in "Transparemt". She was on her cell talking to her family. "I see people, our friends, people we have known for years. They are all walking away from me. Slowly. Then they turn their faces toward me, their faces are like plastic masks. They are sneering. They hate me. I think it is a sign I am dying."

I liked her. I wondered if she would get the questions right. I hoped so.

I'm home now. I have to do exercises. One is standing on one foot with both eyes closed. Dear reader, if you can't do it for more than a second, DO NOT GOOGLE IT!

Day six at home. I felt well enough to cross the street to my local nail salon. I chose the pedicure organic spa special with nine minute massage. The pedicures come in bundles.

I took my first post-hospital photo. You can see it here with the manipedi price-list. My sandals are on the floor. And next to them, my portable oxygen machine.

Life is good.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Slipping on Gravestones - Revisited

Now I'm in a bar in Copenhagen
And I'm trying hard to forget your name
And I'm staring at the label on a bottle of cerveza
And every fucking city feels the same - Paul Kelly, "Every Fucking City

See sign details below
I've been cleaning up my hard drives. Yet another onerous and necessary task in these days of technological advance when life is promoted as being easier rather than more difficult.

Checking  blogger and discovering a heap of  drafts - stories I'd started but never published.

One especially caught my eye. It's old. September 2010.

Was it really nearly seven years ago when I was in the UK visiting with one of my oldest friends, D?

D and I  grew up a few blocks from each other in Elsternwick, a Melbourne suburb,  and both left Australia in the years when everyone who longed for tolerance and culture - and had the means -  did. When Australia was black and white (well more white than black ...), when Lady Chatterley's lover was banned, and the White Australia policy was in full force.

Now we are continents apart and our lives have taken very different courses. But the bonds of early friendships never die, and in reading my post, "Slipping on Gravestones" I wondered why I had never published it. I so so now. Fond memories indeed.

Slipping on Gravestones,
Notice at Gawsworth, England
Just a few short days ago I was in a small church near Macclesfield, England.

And now I'm 30,000 feet above sea level, on Delta flight 155 traveling back to New York.

There is supposed to be internet access on board, but it isn't working yet. We are too far from the U.S. I hope to post this before we land.

We land in New York - my current home. And despite the Paul Kelly song, every city is not the same.

Despite globalization, despite the proliferation of Starbucks, the Gaps and DNKYs, there are still places that have an individual identity indelibly stamped upon them; their own identity. Manhattan and Buxton for example.

Buxton, the Peak district, United Kingdom. I've just come from there. Apart from the friendships that are both timeless and placeless  - (D, L and J thank you) - there are the local endearing peculiarities.

"One glass of white wine please?" "Large or small?" Excuse me???


Civilization, Chatsworth, England
Tea and scones with jam-not-jelly and clotted cream, recently made into a habit for me and D for "afternoon  tea". Stately homes now staffed by volunteers and visited by "commoners". School kids in traditional school uniforms that they've slung on in a hurry, St Trinians'-like, but with a certain panache -  or is it just that they don't  need to care?

Eccentric  elderly couples taking Sunday walks  with local  maps and hiking shoes - the women without make-up and the men without guile - through the adjoining British countryside, somehow reminding  one that WWII isn't so far away.

The tabloids with their screaming headlines and page 3 girls.

The freeways interrupted by traffic lights and roundabouts.

Buxton, Derbyshire. Just last night I was sitting in a  Buxton pub. At 10:00 pm the local 'teams' lined up for the Sunday night quiz.  Teams with names like "The Few", "Cupcakes" and "The Manchester Balls".  The publican reads out  general knowledge questions - well English general knowledge questions. Our team, the Cupcakes came third. I feel guilty as they'd' accepted my  answer to "Which company introduced travelers' checks?" I said Thomas Cook when it was  in fact American Express.

Not that it mattered. We all had fun and  numerous glasses of "large white wine".

I'll miss D, L and J and Buxton. Nothing can replace old friends. And of course, nothing needs to.

And so it is New York, New York.  My city which I love. So good they named it twice.

But why  oh why are there no tea rooms here? Tea rooms with scones, jam-not-jelly and clotted cream.

England, I miss you so!

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Darkness and Light

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying - Dylan "It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)"

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration - Joni Mitchell "Woodstock"

Pride Parade NYC June 2017
The burst of color,  people expressing themselves boldly with pride.  Even the smaller contingents like the "Gay and Sober" and the "Queer Middle Easterners and North African Fabulousness" celebrating  "Happy Eid Pride" were out there  with the rest of them - being gay in the  happy sense of the word.

I envied them. To be so proud, the show one's values to the world. To dance along the streets of Manhattan. It was enough to restore one's faith in humanity.

Which is just what I needed. Something uplifting. Something to take myself  out of the dread of GETTING OLD. 

After all, if those people in the Pride parade who can face the post-Trump world with joy and defiance, why can't I. But somehow I can't.

There isn't a Pride Boomer thing. Probably because we are fast leaving this world.

Over the past 6 months I have been rather down. Getting old is not much fun. Worse,  people who think they are well-meaning, can be pretty obtuse.

What gets up my nose is the "compliments" that I am starting to get. A few examples will suffice.

Elderly gentleman onlooker at the Pride March when I sat down on a bench: "Oh, you are nearly as old as me!"

Person unnamed: "Gee you are  pretty good for your age, being able to take subways.."

Person unnamed: "You must be in good shape for that dog bite to have healed so quickly."

CityMD doctor on examining me for a back injury: "Kick your legs up ... oh my. I can't even do that, you are flexible."

And on it goes ....

I remember the fun we had back in the seventies. When we, thinking ourselves the avant-guarde, protested everything that had no intrinsic merit.

Why should we women stay at home and have babies? And if we did (have babies) why did we have to be confined to hospital for ten days? Why should men go to war and we women couldn't? Why should there even BE a war, and if there was, why couldn't we fight in it?  Every woman should breast-feed. And later, why should we have to breast feed.? Why is there public housing everywhere, except where there are parks, and then why don't they put parks (or public housing) in the outer suburbs? Why should people have to live in the outer suburbs?

Gay Guy in Silver With iPad
 
As much as I was one of those people, there were times when I felt conflicted. Still I went with the (in) crowd  -  I was young,  and it was all about being young and all-knowing.

But now I am not young. And the millennials do not know what we fought for, or care. And why should they?  Which is all well and understandable. I didn't "get" what my dad went through in the "Great Depression". Though to be fair, I did know what it was.

Still it was great to see the Pride march -  it was the most diverse group of people I have ever seen all together. I loved the contingents - the Green Pot Party, the nurses, the teachers, the sober gays, the ever so fabulous trans people - and OMG how they wore those heals. Better you than me darhling!

Maybe I am a pessimist ... but a little bit of me died then, when  exhausted from standing in the heat for four hours, I sat down on a bench and the old guy said, "Gee, you are nearly as old as me."

Actually, to be grammatically correct, he should have said, "Gee, you are nearly as old as I."

But I was too out out of breath to respond. 

Boomer Pride!!!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

On Being Followed

Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you - Dylan, "Mr. Tambourine Man"
 
I believe there is a basic fear -  inherited from our pre-history -  of being followed.

Hence little kids being scared of their own shadows. Women walking alone in city sidewalks, glancing behind if they hear footsteps. The very concept of unlisted phone numbers - useless now in the age of the internet.

And yet,  following is frequently seen as a positive thing. Just take the number of love songs where (mostly) men promise to "follow" their loved ones.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take I'll be watching you - The Police, "Every Breath You Take"

I can remember that song  - "Every Breath You Take" - from the eighties. I found it spooky. Yet it was extremely popular, and I think it was meant to be a love song. Or at least a romantic one. Am I being a radical feminist when I state that being followed "wherever you may go,, with "every move you make, every breath you take" is not a compliment but something scary?

I will follow you
Follow you wherever you may go
There isn't an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep me away - Rick Nelson, "I Will Follow You"

And now "follow" has a new meaning. The Urban Dictionary defines "follow" as "In social media, especially Twitter, it is a subscription of sorts to celebrities, companies, or organizations in order to gain instant access to the thoughts or ideas of said subscription." Adding to the list "celebrities, companies, or organizations" the word "people" and we have a definition that is more apt.

It is not merely people's thoughts and ideas that "following"  gains access to. Let's add in photos. Internet following allows us to give others  "instant access to our thoughts, ideas and photos.

I recently became active on Instagram, largely because I like taking photos and Flickr is so unuser friendly. 

When I set up my Instagram profile I had my privacy option as private. I soon realized this meant I hardly shared anyone else's photos, having very few friends,  with  most of those few not even on Instagram.  I think I had five followers. What a downer! So I changed my profile to "public", and now anyone can "follow" me.

Why did I do such a thing? Am I succumbing to social media - becoming a person desperate for Facebook "likes" and Twitter and Instagram followers?  Have I no friends, no social life? Am I the equivalent of a lonely Victorian spinster, writing in the equivalent of the Victorian lady's diary, on Blogger?

Look at my Instagram profile above. 42 followers - pathetic. And of those, only about five a real people. The others being companies with products and services to sell. Following me in he hope that I will follow them and buy whatever they are selling.

Of course I don't follow such companies, and that is probably why the number of my Instagram followers decreases daily. Following is meant to be reciprocal.. "I will be your friend if you will be my friend" sort of thing. Stuff that for a joke. I am tired of  companies hash-tagging their way into my life.

Calvin Klein Ad, Houston Street, Manhattan
I saw a Scottish TV show last night -  about a hermit who lived alone in a croft in the wilds of the Shetlands. Maybe I should be like him. I can see its positives. No one to follow me, to watch over me. No need to measure my popularity in terms of "likes" and "followers".

But unfortunately, this change in lifestyle is now out of the question. There's no way I would be allowed to live in the Shetlands. After Trump's debacle about the windmills spoiling the view from his Scottish golf course, I suspect they aren't too keen on Americans. And even though I am an Australian American, or and American Australian, I would still feel uncomfortable.

In  any case I can't understand the Scottish dialect. I had to turn closed-captioning on my television even to follow the plot of the TV show. And now it is stuck and I have closed-captioning on everything. I called Netflix to try to get it off, but the customer service guy didn't seem to realize the difference between closed-captioning and sub-titles.

The complexities of modern life.

So I raise my glass to the millennials who know of no other.

"Here's looking at you kids!"











Sunday, June 18, 2017

The First Bite is Free

Walking the dog
I'm just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog
C'mon now c'mon - Rolling Stones, "Walking The Dog"

Dog Alert! Dogs and dog lovers read on at their own risk.

When I was in Bali I stayed at a  resort inland, far away from the Aussie bogan tourists. I remember the place well, though I cannot remember its name. The resort consisted of a cluster huts in the middle of miles and miles of rice paddies.

UES dogs and their adoring owners
At dusk the frogs would start to croak. Loudly. I remember asking one of the restaurant staff if he liked eating frogs, and he replied, "No because I have an affinity for frogs".

"An affinity for frogs". It sounds like the title of an early 20th century novel. That, or "affinity" being a  collective  noun such as in "a murder of crows" or "a flock of ducks".

 "An affinity of frogs".

I have several affinities  but dogs are not one of them.

I used to like dogs, my last dog being Sunday who I adopted while pregnant with my first child. Sunday was eventually shot by a farmer near the Victorian town of Bellbrae. She was a sheep dog, just doing her job with his sheep.

No dog has ever replaced Sunday,  and since her death I have never taken to another dog. In fact I can't remember how I ever even liked them.

It is hard to like something that licks other dogs arses and then tries to lick one's face. Yuck. Plus they bite and shed fur everywhere. Definitely unhygienic.

Two weird dogs, Central Park
In  New York there are dogs everywhere. In elevators, parks. On sidewalks. The only place you are safe from dogs  is at the opera or the ballet, though I wouldn't be surprised if besotted owners smuggled them in.

The City of New York even has a "one bite law" for dogs. And yes I know, they have a "one pothole law" ...  But it is the "one bite law" that gets me.

The idea is that the first bite is free. For the owner that is. So if you get bitten by a dog and it is the first (reported) time that the animal attacked, you cannot get compensated for medical costs by the owner. After all, the logic goes, the owner had no way of knowing that the dog would suddly turn into a savage beastie.

Not only that, but  if the dog bites again, then you can only claim medical expenses. No "pain and suffering". No hefty compensation.

NYC Dog Walker
And the definition of "one bite" - it is most likely the same as  the "one pothole law". If your car hits  a new pothole and several cars behind also hit the same pothole,. it is considered one hit.

I was recently bitten by a service dog.  New Yorkers can "register" their dogs as service dogs simply  by filling out a form on the internet and paying a couple of hundred bucks. They get a tag that is attached to the dog's collar.

This means they are able to take the dog with them to restaurants and apply for dog-free apartments. They don't have to be physically disabled. A person can claim you need it for "comfort".

ONE'S OWN comfort that is. I was recently attacked by such a dog in a restaurant.  There was no comfort involved for me!  But what really gets up my nose is that when I back away from a dog in an elevator, the owner invariably says, "Oh but he's friendly, he doesn't bite do you coochy coo?"

I do know that there exist lovely loving dogs. But I am taking no risks. I have no affinity for dogs. They do not comfort me. Ah, now I have a new collective noun, which does in fact relate to the title of a novel - The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan. An excellent read. Much better than any dog.

And now I must go and dress my "one bite" wound.

Till next time.